Bernie Sanders comments on SCOTUS reaffirmation of Citizens United

June 26, 2012 | By | 13 Replies More

‎”Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a blistering criticism of the Supreme Court after they strengthened Citizens United by overturning Montana’s campaign cash ban.”

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Category: Campaign Finance Reform, Corporatocracy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Adam Herman says:

    Sanders is ignorant. Citizens United affected corporations and unions. Sheldon Adelson and the Kochs could always spend as much as they wanted, being people and all. There are reasonable criticisms of the decision to be made, but acting as if before Citizens United our elections were free of big money is nonsense. Even before Citizens United, there was no conceivable way to ban individuals from independent expenditures. It had never been tried, and if it had been tried, it would have been struck down 9-0.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Adam: I don’t see any unions pouring $400 M into a campaign, like the Koch brothers are doing. I do agree that corporations and unions and rich people are drowning out much chance that ordinary folks will have any voice in the way their government is run. The nefarious part is that one of the two candidates will win, and that candidate will owe favors to those who financed the campaign, which equals special access, which means that people like you and me aren’t invited to political functions to mingle with those who run this country.

      Bottom line: We can do a LOT better than the current system. Lots of people are mulling over how to best get that done. I’ve appreciated your many concerns about infringing on people’s First Amendment rights, as part of the discussions at this site.

      It is my long-considered opinion that doing nothing, allowing the current system, which excludes the People from the political process, is immoral.

  2. Adam Herman says:

    I can agree with that much, we need to do something, but first we need to agree on what the problem is. Sanders has changed his tune markedly in only a few months. Supposedly the problem with Citizens United was that it would unleash corporate cash on campaigns, but that hasn’t happened. We’re seeing record spending, but that’s mostly rich individuals and Citizens United didn’t allow that, it was always allowed. George Soros was pouring millions into campaigns before Citizens United, now other rich guys are following suit. Notice that Sanders has completely changed his tune, he doesn’t even say “corporations” in his last statement, even though the Montana decision was also about corporations and didn’t deal with individuals at all.

    So if we decide that individuals are the problem, then the first thing we have to do is quit obsessing about court decisions that had nothing to do with the current problem. The second thing we have to do is look at areas where even more money than the Kochs gets spent on campaigns, but it’s all legal and not even accounted for.

    Take Amtrak. Amtrak has just started a campaign to give people discounted fares if they give money to a lobbying organization that seeks to increase rail subsidies, and supports candidates who support Amtrak. This is an indirect, and totally legal means for any corporations to have a huge influence on politics.

    And it’s not the only way politics is affected by unaccountable money. THe administration can contract with corporations to promote various policies, such as the health care bill, and hundreds of millions get spent. Is there really a big difference between corporations advocating for administration policies and advocating for the administration?

  3. Adam Herman says:

    Your point about the public having access to politicians, there’s no campaign finance reform that would help with that. If the politicians don’t have to raise money, they just don’t pay attention to anyone at all. Plus incumbents end up with overwhelming advantages since they can spend money legally, often taxpayer money, promoting their candidacies, plus use their connections in the national and local media. We’ve had a couple of wave elections recently, and one reason for all that Congressional turnover has been all the money flowing to challengers. Cut off that flow, and incumbents will have a 99% reelect rate again.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      I completely disagree with you on this, Adam. If I hand a politician huge wads of money, that buys me access, both immediately and in the future, because I am now on the politician’s list of people to court for the ext election cycle.

      When’s the last time you’ve seen a White House function filled with people making the median income? Those people get to stay home and watch politics on the TV “news.”

  4. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I’m going to state the obvious problem that no one will talk about. The citizen’s united decision was a strategically planned set-up for the right wing factions in our government to distance the control of our government from the majority of the governed, and to effectively legalize institutionalized corruption and graft.
    But Citizen’s United vs the F.E.C. is not the problem, only a symptom of the underlying problem. The system is being gamed by a few players who seek to destroy democracy, and create a new empire. These players feel they owe nothing to the country, will shift their allegiances to whom ever benefits them the most, and when the US is “used up” we will become the dumping grounds for their waste.
    What happens when the majority realize they have no recourse to the law will be open armed revolution, and personally, I don’t like the idea of ducking bullets.

    BTW… Doug: If your or some of your friends are reading this, it is just my assessment of the situation. I don’t advocate violence, nor do I condone it.

  5. Adam Herman says:

    I agree with that much, I just don’t see how it follows that something like public financing would lead to you getting face time with big time pols. It would save them the trouble of having to please the Kochs but it wouldn’t obligate them to please you anymore than it did before. Really, it would just enhance the power of groups that don’t rely on direct donations to get their way. Such as the NRA, which is leaning on Democrats hard to support the Holder contempt resolution, threatening to score the vote against them. The NRA has such amazing superpowers that they were specifically exempt from the DISCLOSE Act.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Adam: If money can no longer buy access, then other things (like ideas that further the public interest) have a better chance of obtaining access. It’s that simple.

  6. Adam Herman says:

    If there’s anything our campaign finance quest has taught us, it’s that if you close off one way for powerful interests to influence a campaign, they’ll just do something else. What happened when hard money limits were imposed? They went to soft money. Then they limited soft money. So they did independent electioneering. Then they stopped corporate electioneering. So individuals who owned companies started doing the independent electioneering. So let’s say we close that off too. Guess what? You’ve still got a huge loophole: the press loophole. The Kochs buy a cable news station, and their advocacy becomes 24/7/365 propaganda.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Adam: You’ve made this point repeatedly, and I think it is a good point to make.

      Is this a difficult quest? Should regular folks just give up? No. To do so would be immoral and even more self-destructive than the status quo.

  7. Adam Herman says:

    Here’s the most pernicious part. Even after Citizens United, individuals have a hard time doing their own independent electioneering if they don’t have lawyers. A couple of dudes wanted to spend just a few thousand on an ad buy criticizing a Presidential candidate(not sure which one), and found that when they asked the FEC what was allowed, they couldn’t get a straight answer. And why should two median income dudes willing to plunk down a few thousand to have their voices heard have to seek permission to speak? It’s absurd.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    John Nochols comments on the new Montana decision affirming Citizens United:

    The court’s 5-4 decision in the Montana case of American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock significantly expands the scope and reach of the Citizens United ruling by striking down state limits on corporate spending in state and local elections.  “The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law,” the majority wrote. “There can be no serious doubt that it does.”

    Translation: If Exxon Mobil wants to spend $10 million to support a favored candidate in a state legislative or city council race that might decide whether the corporation is regulated, or whether it gets new drilling rights, it can. But why stop at $10 million? If it costs $100 million to shout down the opposition, the court says that is fine. If if costs $1 billion, that’s fine, too.

    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/25-6

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